GOP hammers Democrats over Iowa Democrat’s election challenge

Republicans are hammering Democrats for what they say is hypocrisy in their efforts to challenge Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks’s (R-Iowa) victory over Democrat Rita Hart in the state’s 2nd Congressional District. 

GOP figures from strategist Karl Rove to House GOP Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.), as well as the top Republicans in the House and Senate, voiced their support for Miller-Meeks, arguing that Democrats were unjustified trying to overturn the results after a recount. 

Democrats, on the other hand, say they are confident that Hart’s request for the House to investigate the results of the election will be handled properly by the House Administration Committee.

“What I want them to do, and what I hope they will do, is find the accurate results and make their decision based upon that — Republican or Democrat,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Tuesday on a press call.

Iowa’s State Canvassing Board officially certified Miller-Meeks’s victory in November, with 196,964 votes for the Republican congresswoman and 196,958 votes for Hart. The election was the closest federal race in 2020. Miller-Meeks was sworn into office in January. 

Instead of going through the state’s court system, Hart requested that the Democratic-controlled House Administration committee investigate 22 ballots she claims were not correctly counted, and that there are enough votes to overturn the election. 

Last week, the committee’s chair, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), postponed a motion from Miller-Meeks to dismiss Hart’s election challenge. Miller-Meeks and Hart have until March 29 to submit written responses to the committee. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has not ruled out the scenario of removing Miller-Meeks from Congress, saying it will depend on the committee’s findings. 

“We’ll see where that takes us,” she told reporters last week. “But there could be a scenario to that extent, yes.”

But those comments and the efforts from Hart to challenge the election have Republicans up in arms, claiming Democrats are working to subvert the will of the district’s voters. 

Additionally, Republicans claim Democrats are acting hypocritically after they dismissed former President Trump’s efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election results. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Pelosi and Democrats of “literally trying to overturn a state-certified election here in Congress” during a speech on the Senate floor on Thursday. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has joined McConnell in accusing Democrats of attempting to steal a seat that he says the Republicans fairly won. Noting that Hart took her challenge directly to Congress — not the courts — he proposed a theory why: “Because that’s where she thinks she can get the outcome that she desires.”

Hart defended her decision to bypass the state’s court system in December, saying there were errors and inconsistencies in how the ballots were reviewed by the district’s counties. The Democrat said that the House process would “the time it takes to make sure that every vote that was cast has an opportunity to be counted.” 

But others warn that Democratic challenges to the race could come back to haunt the party the next time there is a contested election when Republicans control the House. 

“Be careful what you wish for because it sets a precedent,” said Timothy Hagel, an American politics professor at the University of Iowa. “It’s sort of a short-term gain versus what happens in the long term.” 

“That’s the question that a lot of Democrats either on that House panel or generally if it does come to a vote, that they’re going to have to address,” he added. 

In Iowa, the state’s Republican Party has also seized on the efforts to challenge the results. The party blasted out a fundraising email titled “The Pelosi Steal” on Thursday. 

“This does not pass the smell test for, I would say, every county in this district, with the exception of many Johnson County,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told The Hill. 

The development comes as Democrats hold a narrow 219-211 majority in the House after losing a number of seats, including former Iowa Rep. Abby Finkenauer’s (D) in 2020. Republicans have since turned their attention to Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), who will likely face an uphill reelection bid in 2022, and could face a vote on the issue if it goes to the House. 

Axne is the only Democrat serving in Iowa’s congressional delegation. 

“If Cindy Axne really believed this was wrong as she’s going to have us believe, she would be challenging this on behalf of her state,” Kaufmann said. 

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) told CNN this week that Hart’s challenge to the election results puts Axne “in jeopardy.” 

Axne’s office referred The Hill to a statement from the congresswoman from December, in which she said Hart has “Constitutional and legal grounds to pursue that goal at the federal level.” 

“No Iowan should ever be told again that their vote won’t potentially make the difference in the outcome of an election,” she said. 

But Democrats in Iowa and Washington insist the challenge has nothing to do with the party makeup of the House, but rather following the Democratic process. 

“I’m not going to speculate about political blowback because this is not about political strategy,” Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Ross Wilburn said. “Twenty-two Iowans cast legally cast ballots and they deserve to be counted.” 

Hoyer rejected the idea that Democrats were attempting to steal a seat because they needed the extra cushion to pass their legislative agenda.

“Frankly, we’re doing okay as Democrats. You look at this quarter, it’s not as if, because it’s a close majority, we’ve had trouble getting the bills through that we think are important. So this is not about control of the House or control of, frankly, the agenda,” Hoyer said. “This is about — and I want — and I’ve told [Rep.] Zoe Lofgren this, and I think this is what [Rep.] Zoe Lofgren wants — whatever the honest, truthful, correct answer is to who won that election.”

Mike Lillis contributed.

Tags Abby Finkenauer Cindy Axne Donald Trump Joni Ernst Karl Rove Kevin McCarthy Liz Cheney Mitch McConnell Nancy Pelosi Steny Hoyer Zoe Lofgren

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